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Photo of a woman with medium-dark skin and long black hair, wearing blue—Delores Taylor—smiling warmly with her arms on a railing. Behind her are tall glass doors, columns, and a bronze statue. J20454 006 Int Press 300ppi 3000px Srgb Jpeg

Delores Taylor, Office Coordinator, Protection Services

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If you’ve ever felt a little lost or needed a guiding hand while visiting the museum, chances are you’ve already met Delores Taylor.

She’s spent the past 28 years here as a security officer, and she loves nothing more than helping others. Just recently she took on a new role, managing the Protection Services office. She’s also our resident ray of sunshine, always there with a warm smile, a wealth of knowledge, and the kind of direct, can-do attitude that leaves those around her feeling empowered. I think of her as my museum sister. Whether I have a question, a problem, or just need some good old-fashioned advice, Delores is my forever phone-a-friend, and I’m excited for you to get to know her, too, through a conversation we had a few weeks ago.

Travonda Bennett: Hey, Delores. How are you doing?

Delores Taylor:
Fantastic. It’s Friday.

Travonda: You got any plans for the weekend?

Delores: Football, football, football, of course—with my son. He has a game in Melrose Park and one in Bolingbrook.

Travonda: Are you one of those coaching-type football moms?

Delores: No, I could never be a team mom. I am more of the “crush-’em” mom, the screaming mom, the running-with-the flag mom, the all-in-it mom, with the signs and the T-shirts and all of that good stuff.

Photo of Travonda Bennett, a woman with medium-dark skin, gold glasses, and red braids, leaning against an indoor railing and facing Delores Taylor, whose back and long black hair are toward the viewer.

Travonda with Delores near the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase


Travonda: I love that enthusiasm, and I think you bring that sort of energy to your role here, too. Let’s start by talking about what you do at the Art Institute and how you got here. 

Delores: I got here because my best friend, Sharonda, was working here. My mom used to pay my bills—this was many years ago—and she was like, “No more. It’s time for you to get on your own, pay your own bills.” So I was looking for a job, and my best friend, she was like, “I’m doing security at the Art Institute. Why don’t you come and check it out?” And I was like, “Security? No way.” And I’ve been here for 28 years. 

Travonda: What might surprise people the most about working in museum security?

Delores: Well, you have to be the bad guy, but you’re also the good guy. You have to enforce the rules, and you’re the first point of contact in case of an emergency. So you have to be very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of building procedures and things like that. You have to know about everything that’s going on, all the time. Which exhibitions are opening, which are closing, when the gardens are open … It keeps me on my toes.

Travonda: Does that carry over into your personal life at all? Like how doctors can never really stop being doctors?

Delores: I’m sure it does. I’m always like, “Hey, why is that light out? Let me call the city and tell them the streetlight is not on.” My sisters and brothers, they’re like, “You’ve been doing security for too long.” I’m just very observant and very aware of things. 

Travonda: Are you originally from Chicago?

Delores: Yes, I’m from Chicago.

Travonda: Were you familiar with the Art Institute prior to working here?

Delores: Nope. I wasn’t familiar with the Art Institute at all. I had never been here—wasn’t too familiar with the art world. But when I got here, I fell in love with it, and I fell in love with art.

Travonda: Nice, nice. What is your favorite piece?

Delores: Archibald Motley. Nightlife


Archibald John Motley Jr.

© Valerie Gerrard Browne / Chicago History Museum / Bridgeman Images

Travonda: And do you have a favorite place in the museum where you like to spend time?

Delores: You know where I love to spend time—the gallery that has Radical Clay in it. I love spending time in that area, especially right now. 

Travonda: The Andō Gallery, with the big square columns? Those big old columns, and the room is dark.

Delores: Yes, yes. That’s what I’m talking about. I was in there recently and was like, “Oh, this could be my living room.” Get a nice leather couch in the middle of the floor. 

A photograph of a darkened art gallery with built-in illuminated cases at left featuring a large golden ceramic object and a light-colored one. At right, tall, black, rectangular columns spaced evenly on the gallery floor contribute to a moody and serene atmosphere.

Works from Radical Clay: Contemporary Women Artists from Japan in the Andō Gallery


Travonda: I sometimes go into the Andō Gallery to just sit there. It kind of reminds me to get straight, get my mind right, get in order, recalibrate. It’s really such a peaceful, meditative reset space.

Delores: Yep. It really is.

Travonda: For many, many years, you’ve been a security officer here, but you were just recently promoted. Tell me about your new role.

Delores: I’m the coordinator for the Security office. I make IDs for all museum employees, and I generally take care of the office administratively. I’m enjoying it—just bringing a positive vibe, as I like to bring. I’m really trying to learn my job, master my job, and just make it work for me. 

Actually, I would say that you inspired me. Because when you were in Visitor Services, which we now call Engagement, I used to escort the cash from your office, and it was so nice and always pleasant to see you—and then I didn’t see you for a while. And you’d moved to HR! And I was like, “Wow, HR?” And then, when you joined People and Culture, I was really impressed. I thought, “I want to do that—shift my role a little, maybe work in the Ferguson building,” which is our main administrative office building. And I’m here now.

Photo of Delores Taylor and Travonda Bennett talking near the railing of the Art Institute's Woman's Board Grand Staircase, tall white columns behind them.

Travonda: Well, thank you. Thank you for saying all that. It means a lot to me. I was determined to write my own story, so I kept applying and applying until I got my role as an assistant in Talent Acquisition with HR. Now as manager, Talent Development, in People and Culture, I think it’s really important to be an example that you can get where you want to go here.

Delores: And you were. You inspired me.

Travonda: You inspire me, though. You’re always so gracious and so knowledgeable.

Delores: Thank you.

Travonda: You’ve been a leader of the Black Caucus here at the museum for a while now. For members who may not know, it’s one of our employee affinity groups. What made you step up into that role?

Delores: I had decided to start challenging myself and put myself in uncomfortable situations. I wanted to be a good example for my son. When you place yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you eventually make it comfortable. Stepping up to that leadership role, and my work before that, working with other colleagues to build our early DEI initiatives, really helped me get to where I am today. It gave me more confidence.

Building those early relationships is something I’ll always be really proud of. I found myself meeting with people at every level of the organization and coming up with ideas together—people who I didn’t think I could share ideas with. You know what I mean? People who I wasn’t sure would listen to my ideas. It was one of my proudest moments, watching people come together.

Travonda: Mine too.

Delores: Wouldn’t you say?

Travonda: Yeah. Because staff and leaders from across the museum were all working toward a common DEI goal. I remember in 2019, during our first equity training session, feeling the buzz in the room about what was going on and realizing, “Okay, this is working, they’re engaged, and we did it.” It was great. 

Delores: Yeah, it really was great. So now I just keep challenging myself for greatness.

Photo of Delores Taylor smiling widely in conversation with Travonda Bennett. Both of them are seated on a bench on the landing of the Art Institute's Woman's Board Grand Staircase.

Travonda: And what are you looking forward to these days? 

Delores: Aside from settling more into my new position, I’m really excited to hold more in-person meetings with the Black Caucus as we head into summer. I love when we all get together and just enjoy each other and support each other and talk about everything—what’s going on at work, what’s going on at home.

Travonda: Nice. Yeah.

Delores: What about you? 

Travonda: I’m excited about a new orientation process for managers that we’re working on to help get them acclimated to what can be a huge and complex workplace. And our Employee Engagement Ambassador program, where we pair longtime employees up with newly hired staff, is working really, really well. We’re going to be doing some heavy recruiting for additional ambassadors in the next few months.

A photo shows sunlight filtering across the landing of the Art Institute's Woman's Board Grand Staircase, casting geometric shadows across the space. Delores Taylor and Travonda Bennett sit on the landing talking, art objects on the landing overhead.

Delores: Oh I didn’t tell you—I definitely want to be an ambassador. 

Travonda: Yes, yes! I for sure will add you to the list. You’d be a great ambassador—100%.

Delores: I was reading over the program description, and I thought, “That feels like a good fit for me.” I love working here, and of course, being in Security, I know a lot about how this place runs that I can share with new colleagues.

Travonda: Yeah. Plus a lot of it is just giving someone a friendly face to turn to. And you’re fun

Delores: I know!

Travonda: I should mention for the members that in addition to your promotion, you recently won a Lion Award, which is a peer-nominated prize given to Art Institute staff who exemplify certain positive values in the workplace. And that’s what one of your nominators said—“She’s fun!”

Delores: I saw that and I was like, “All right, who wrote that?” I love that. I really do. Because you never know what someone is going through. And I want to always be one of those people who, even if you never see me again, you can say, “She made me feel good.” Even if it was only for 10 minutes, 15 minutes. I want us to have a great connection—for that hour, that moment, that day.

—Delores Taylor, office coordinator, Protection Services, and Travonda Bennett, manager, Talent Development, People and Culture

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